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Class NotesYoga

Week of 6/24: The River and the Monkey

By June 29, 2018August 11th, 2018No Comments


There is this Zen master and her student. The master leads the student to a river, and tells him “Sit here and hear everything the river has to tell you.”

The student is a very good student. He settles in and for THREE DAYS listens to everything; the gurgling, the breeze, the music of the river. This is very nice. But, sometime during the third day, a new sound comes crashing in. He hears screeching, and a splash and he opens his eyes to see a monkey, screaming and splashing with total joy and abandon in the river.

The student jumps up and runs back to the Zen master, tears and all, babbling about the monkey. The Zen master knows he has understood. “You LISTENED to the river,” she said, nodding. “The monkey HEARD the river.”


So, this story is a bonus because there are TWO lessons. Here they are:

There is a big difference between listening and hearing. We often listen to simply respond, editing what we hear to support our own point of view, or to otherwise serve our own purposes. This keeps us firmly rooted in place.

When we listen to hear, we understand. Now, just like the class notes from the June 10 post, understanding does not need to imply agreeing, or that any further action or change is required. But, understanding can open you to new paths and choices.

We often over-intellectualize experiences, staying firmly in our head, rather than fully experiencing. We protect ourselves with our own smarts. We detach, analyze and ruminate, but often don’t surrender fully to the experience of joy, or pain. We deny ourselves these human experiences, never really feeling the lessons and messages they have for us. Again, this feels like a safe approach, but denies us the growth and wisdom we gain from fully feeling and integrating life lessons, and therefore the choices that come with new wisdom.

Much of this lesson came from the book “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo.